Get Some Zzzzz
“How did you sleep?” “You look tired.” “I just can’t seem to get enough sleep.” Sleep is an important part of a healthy life – in fact, it’s as essential as food and water. The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep for good health (children and teens need even more! But often, it’s the first thing we sacrifice in our busy lives. As many as 25% of American adults report getting too little sleep at least 15 of 30 days.
The mental health benefits of sleep
When we sleep, our brains stay busy forming the pathways that help us form memories and learn new things. Sleep makes us better at problem solving, helps us think more clearly, and improves focus. It also sharpens our reflexes – tired people have a much higher risk of traffic or other accidents. Even one night of sleep loss can affect our mood the next day, and chronic lack of sleep is associated with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Tips for better sleep
Sleep quality is affected by many things, including routine, food and drink, and activities. Try these tips from the National Institutes of Health to improve your sleep:
Consistency. Set a schedule to go to sleep and wake up each day, then stick to it. Resist the temptation to sleep more on your days off – it can disrupt your normal sleep/wake cycle. Some phone apps will provide reminders of your sleep schedule.
Environment. Your bedroom should make it easy to sleep. It should be dark and quiet, not too warm or too cold. Consider removing electronics like TVs and computers.
Exercise. Exercise promotes good sleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, but try to finish it at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
Electronics. Limit the use of electronics beginning 2-3 hours before bed. Researchers believe that the blue light emitted by electronics can affect your biological clock and make it harder to fall asleep. If you must use electronics, consider changing the settings to reduce the blue light.
Relax. Take time to wind down before going to bed. Try taking a warm bath, drinking a cup of (caffeine-free) tea, meditating, or reading a little to encourage relaxation.
Stimulants. Just like a cup of coffee can help you wake up in the morning, it can keep you up at night. Avoid stimulants like coffee or nicotine in the evening.
Alcohol. While alcohol can make you feel sleepy initially, it can reduce the quality of your sleep by increasing how often you wake up later in the night.
Written by Cindy Maxim
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Please always follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Programs and services are subject to change. Managed Health Network, LLC (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, LLC. The MHN companies include Managed Health Network and MHN Services, LLC. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, LLC or its affiliates. All rights reserved.